Four tourists who were arrested in Russia for ‘gay propaganda’ were told they were free to go today (22 July).
Due to an ‘irregularity in the minutes’, the four Dutch citizens said they would no longer be held by police.
‘The court date was cancelled because it never came to us,’ a representative of the Leninsky district court said.
A police source confirmed the case against the Dutch citizens was dropped.
This was the first time foreigners had been officially charged under the anti-gay law, which normally leads to a fine, possible prison time for up to 14 days, and deportation.
The four was led by Kris van der Veen, a councillor for the left-wing green party GroenLinks in Groningen. He is also chairman of the foundation KGBT Groningen, which campaigns for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.
Groningen in the Netherlands is ‘twinned’ with Murmansk in Russia.
The group was making a documentary about gay rights in Russia and had asked a 17-year-old teenager about his views.
The police took the Dutch citizens away, and was told they had violated their visas. Their reason for travel was to ‘acquaint themselves with Russian culture’.
They were told they had broken the law of ‘non-traditional sexual relations’ propaganda among children, which was signed into law by President Vladimir Putin on 1 July.
Authorities then questioned the interviewees for the documentary.
‘During questioning they tried to get us to say, or at least imply, that our lives in Russia are not good,’ Elena Shadrina said.
‘I was asked at least three times about the [Dutch] guests had said, and whether the conversation had drifted into an exchange along the lines of “things are good in the Netherlands and bad in Russia”.’
Shortly after they were questioned for eight hours, Van der Veen posted on his Facebook wall telling his friends he would not be back in the Netherlands for today..
‘Rather than return home we are still in Murmansk,’ he said. ‘It’s all because of the documentary, the gay propaganda. It’s okay, but it is unclear what to do next.
‘We’ve got a lot of support from the local activists and consulates!’
The group was fined 3,000 roubles each ($93, 70 euros) for violating visa rules.
Police confiscated the film shot in Russia and are still refusing to release the footage.
Gay activists have told Gay Star News they hope this is a ‘taste’ of what will be the case during the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia next year. They hope international pressure will force Russian authorities to not arrest any gay tourist or athlete during the Games.
The arrest comes as prominent Russian gay activists are in Marseille for EuroPride. They are speaking about the anti-gay laws and protesting against Putin.